South Africa is located at the southernmost tip of the African continent and it’s marked by several very distinct ecosystems. The Western Cape offers beaches, lush winelands around Stellenbosch and Paarl, craggy cliffs at the Cape of Good Hope, forest and lagoons along the Garden Route, and the city of Cape Tape, which is beneath the flat topped Table Mountain. Take a look below for 32 more fun and fascinating facts about South Africa.
1. South Africa has 11 official languages, with English being the most commonly spoken.
2. Mahatma Gandhi arrived in South Africa in 1893 at the age of 24. He had planned on staying in South Africa for one year to work as a legal representative for the Muslim Indian Traders based in the city of Pretoria.
3. The South African national flag is one of only three national flags to comprise 6 colors in its primary design.
4. The Mompane worm is actually a caterpillar and it can be found in South Africa. It’s often picked, squeezed and dried so it can be eaten. It can also be fried.
5. Racial segregation in South Africa was first implemented under the Dutch Empire. It continued through British rule until was finally abolished in 1991.
6. Nelson Mandela was the first black president elected in South Africa.
7. South Africa has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world, with nearly 1 in 5 people carrying the virus.
8. The country has 10 different airports. 3 of the airports are used for international travel while the other 7 are domestic terminals.
9. Mark Shuttleworth of South Africa paid a $200 fee to the Russian space program so he can be the first African to be on the Space Station.
10. Table Mountain, one of the iconic landmarks of South Africa, is one of the oldest mountains in the world. The mountain has more than 2,200 species of plants, 70% of which are endemic.
11. The world’s largest visible craters are in South Africa. Around 2,030 million years ago, a meteor the size of a mountain fell to Earth in what is now South Africa’s Free State, making a crater that’s 300 kilometers in diameter. It is the oldest crater made by either a comet or meteorite and, reportedly, it’s the site of the largest energy release in history.
12. The 850 kilometer road through Cape Winelands is the world’s longest wine route. Route 62 runs between Cape Town, Constantia to Port Elizabeth, via Oudtshoom and the Garden Route, embracing 350 years of wine making as it passes classic Cape-Dutch homesteads, green mountains, 200 cellars and miles and miles of vines.
13. A South African fish migration is so large that it can be seen from space. Between May and July, every year millions of small silver fish travel in vast shoals from the cold waters off South Africa’s Cape Point up to the coastlines of the northern Eastern Cape and southern KwaZulu-Natal.
14. Bones found in South Africa help support the theory that modern humans originated in Africa. Fossilised bones from hominids dating back between 4.5 and 2.5 million years were found in limestone caves some 50 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg.
15. The biggest land mammal in the world, the African bush elephant, resides in South Africa. These amazing animals can grow up to 11 tons.
16. There are approximately 900 different bird species that can be found in South Africa.
17. South Africa has 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Robben Island, Cape Floristic Region and Drakensberg Park.
18. It’s estimated that there are about 3,000 shipwrecks located off of the coast of South Africa.
19. South Africa was the first African country to recognize same sex marriage, which occurred in 2006. It was the fifth country in the entire world to do so.
20. South Africa voluntarily abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 1989 and is the only country in the world that has done so.
21. The aboriginal people of South Africa are the San and the Khoi. The hunter-gatherer Sans and pastoral Khoi together become known as the KhoiSan. They have lived in what is now the Western Cape since around 300 A.D.
22. For nearly 50 years, there was a state of apartheid in South Africa. When the Afrikaaner Nationalist Party came to power in 1948, their policy of apartheid segregated blacks and whites, forced hundreds of thousands of people to resettle in black “homelands,” and imprisoned, killed or sent opponents into exile.
23. The South African flag was used for the first time on Freedom Day 1994. The V-shape, which flows into a single horizontal band, symbolises the coming together of the different elements in South African society and moving ahead in unity.
24. The national animal of South Africa is the Springbok, which is the only southern African gazelle. The Springbok is also the emblem and nickname of the South African national rugby team.
25. Almost 80% of South Africa’s population is Christian. The other 20% is made up of Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and other religions.
26. South Africa hosts the world’s biggest bicycle race. The 35,000 riders taking part in the 109 kilometer Cape Town Cycle Tour race across Cape Town’s south peninsula and along the mountainous coastal road called Chapman’s Peak Drive.
27. South Africa is the largest producer of platinum in the world. In 2014, it produced 110,000 kilograms, which is more than four times the amount of the next biggest producer, which is Russia.
28. School lasts for 13 years in South Africa. It begins with what is known as year 0 and runs though the 12th grade.
29. South Africa’s Constitution is considered to be one of the most progressive of the modern world. It outlines such rights as equality, health care, education and access to courts.
30. The Palace of the Lost City is one of the largest themed hotels in the world. It’s surrounded by a 25 hectare man made jungle.
31. South Africa has hosted the World Cup for soccer, rugby and cricket. It’s the only country in the world to have done so.
32. South Africa has over 45 million cellphones in use. South Africans use phones more than radio, TV, and computers.